A routine passenger flight nearly turned sideways last week after both pilots reportedly fell asleep while the craft was thousands of feet in the air.
The incident took place on Monday as an Ethiopian Airlines flight was approaching its destination in Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city in Ethiopia. As air traffic control at the city’s airport attempted to contact the flight at around its point of descent, they could get no response and the plane continued on, according to a BBC News report.
As it turned out, both pilots at the helm of the plane had fallen asleep, causing the plane to coast by its point of descent. At the point when the pilots drifted off, the plane was approximately 37,000 feet in the air. Both pilots were eventually woken up by the craft’s autopilot disconnect wailer and were able to land safely in Addis Ababa on a second approach, roughly 25 minutes after missing their first descent.
The plane, a Boeing 737, can typically seat 154 passengers and was en route from the airport in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan, which is usually a two-hour flight.
The pilots involved in the incident have been placed on leave pending a full investigation into what happened.
“We have received a report which indicates Ethiopian flight number ET343 en route from Khartoum to Addis Ababa temporarily lost communication with Addis Ababa Air Traffic Control on 15 August 2022,” Ethiopian Airlines wrote in a statement sent to numerous press outlets. “The flight later landed safely after communication was restored. The concerned crew have been removed from operation pending further investigation. Appropriate corrective action will be taken based on the outcome of the investigation. Safety has always been and will continue to be our first priority.”
Reactions online ranged from shock and anger, to general sympathy for the responsibilities that modern pilots bear. In its report, BBC News cited comments calling for the pilots’ immediate “termination… full stop,” and others that said “the blame lies on the corporation and the regulators.”
“Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety – internationally,” aviation analyst Alex Macheras wrote in a tweet reacting to the incident.
Newsweek reached out to Ethiopian Airlines for comment.
A similar incident was reported in May during a transatlantic flight from New York City to Rome. The craft’s pilots dozed off and were unreachable for approximately 10 minutes before waking up, according to an Italian news outlet.
The post Pilots of Boeing 737 Both Doze Off, Overshoot Airport on Two-Hour Flight appeared first on Newsweek.